12-years ago tonight America was a different place, a place that seems so distant and foreign now. No one could know that come morning one of the Freedom’s so eloquently spoken about by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and written about in the preamble to the Constitution, Freedom from Fear, would be shaken for generations. On the night of September 10th, 2001, the Denver Broncos hosted the New York Giants on Monday Night Football with the Broncos winning 31-20 despite wide receiver Ed McCaffery breaking his leg in the game. Fans left Invesco Field hopeful for a winning season. Earlier on the 10th Captain Jason Dahl left his home in Littleton bound for Newark, New Jersey where he would pilot Flight 93 the next morning, bound for San Francisco. Jason had switched flights with another pilot so he’d be free to take his wife to London for their 5th anniversary the next week. It was a normal end, to a normal day. How could anyone have imagined that before the sun would set on 9/11 nearly 3,000 people would be killed in the fall of the twin towers, the damage at the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania?
“Joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come and when one sits alone with you . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was broadcasting the KEZW Breakfast Club live from the Denver Zoo. It seemed we had just started the show when I heard my producer at the station engaging in a frantic conversation with our traffic reporter. I could sense some anxiety in their voices and for the longest time no one would respond to my repeated questions about what was going on. Then there was silence, followed by the producer saying to me, “You need to come to the station immediately…something bad is happening.” I can hear those words as clearly today as I could 12 years ago. When I got to the station we flipped our programming to 24-hour live news and didn’t play a song for 30-hours. I then made the decision that we needed to give people a place to go to escape from the news and the overwhelming sadness, if only for a little, and we started playing music again. I do remember the quiet skies with no planes flying. And I remember looking at three and a half month old Larissa, our granddaughter, and wondering what kind of world are we welcoming you to?
December 7th 2001 I found myself, along with Diane in Hawaii for a broadcast I was going to do from Pearl Harbor for the 60th anniversary of the attack there. On that day a group of first responders from New York City had been invited to come, with their families, by the state of Hawaii for some R&R and a chance to meet perhaps the only people that truly understood what they had been through, survivors of the attack on December 7th, 1941. The young, muscular men from NYC, medics and firefighters who had entered the burning towers looking for survivors and spent weeks sifting through rubble looking for any sign of life stood with arms around 80-year old men who had themselves looked through burning hulls of sinking ships and oily water for victims of the Japanese attack. They hugged, they cried, and they more often than not just looked at each other in knowing silence. They had seen evil face-to face and were all changed forever.
I know now that we have all been changed. We are all different than we were on September 10th, 2001. Not the obvious different of age and physical change. The different that shows itself when we sit in an airplane boarding area, after clearing multiple security screenings with detectors and scanners, and worry about the person waiting to board our same flight who looks like they could be middle eastern. The different that shows itself in carrying all of our belongings in clear plastic bags to football games. Different in how we are hardened to the news, and the tragic loss of life that continues today as we not only lose a younger generation to the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to the demons they bring home as 22 veterans a day take their own life as the only way they know to make the pain stop. Since 9/11 the Colorado Freedom Memorial, built to honor those killed in action since we became a state has added over 100 names. You can turn away, but it doesn’t go away. We once assumed tomorrow was a given. We know better now. We’re different.
Tonight, as you make the evening rounds and check that the family is safe and everything is as it should be, take a moment to remember those for whom life has not been the same since 9/11. Remember the families of 9/11 and the loved ones of those that have borne the battles since. Ask for courage to accept the new world and strength to carry those that live in fear. Ask for wisdom to know the answers to little ones questions and patience to make sense of it all.
Enough rambling from me for one night.
We were in Italy, driving in the country and were absolutely STUNNED by the news: my niece called my sister-in-law on her cell phone and Donna could not stop exclaiming or crying. My brother-in-law had to stop driving. When we reached our castle hostel, they had TV and CNN and in every language except English. So, I was translating from the French CNN. Our last days in Italy included a family restaurant who's nephew was killed at Twin Towers. For the moment, absolutely the worst. That alone informed us: the world is small and Americans weren't the only families who were and are still grieving. We left that family a healthy tip, which is frowned upon, but I told the young lady: this is for your family. Use it as you will. And, I'm sure she did. Those were our first days and we are remembering, ever since. Thank you so much for your comments, Rick, they are appreciated.
You've always had a big heart, and so, on this anniversary, you again did not disappoint. We all have vivid memories of that day, that will forever haunt us while, at the same time, we remain heartened by the wonderful country in which we live. My positive feelings are reinforced all the more, because I was welcomed to this country as a young refugee, shortly before the formal outbreak of WWII.
Gratefully, Korean War veteran